Paul Krugman and the Obama Recovery

The Nobel laureate economist is a great economic theorist – and a great polemicist. But he should replace his polemical hat with his analytical one and reflect more deeply on recent experience: rather than throwing the US back into recession, deficit reduction has been accompanied by recovery, job creation, and lower unemployment.

NEW YORK – For several years, and often several times a month, the Nobel laureate economist and New York Times columnist and blogger Paul Krugman has delivered one main message to his loyal readers: deficit-cutting “austerians” (as he calls advocates of fiscal austerity) are deluded. Fiscal retrenchment amid weak private demand would lead to chronically high unemployment. Indeed, deficit cuts would court a reprise of 1937, when Franklin D. Roosevelt prematurely reduced the New Deal stimulus and thereby threw the United States back into recession.

Well, Congress and the White House did indeed play the austerian card from mid-2011 onward. The federal budget deficit has declined from 8.4% of GDP in 2011 to a predicted 2.9% of GDP for all of 2014. And, according to the International Monetary Fund, the structural deficit (sometimes called the “full-employment deficit”), a measure of fiscal stimulus, has fallen from 7.8% of potential GDP to 4% of potential GDP from 2011 to 2014.

Krugman has vigorously protested that deficit reduction has prolonged and even intensified what he repeatedly calls a “depression” (or sometimes a “low-grade depression”). Only fools like the United Kingdom’s leaders (who reminded him of the Three Stooges) could believe otherwise.

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